I get up well before dawn on our last day below the rim and make
my way out to the west arm. Gary thinks I am nuts, but I go anyway
because I want to take sunrise pictures and I also want to look
for a cave that Harvey Butchart mentioned in his "Grand Canyon
Treks" series. According to Harvey, there is a faint track
leading from the main trail over the west arm of the mesa to a cave
someplace just below the rim. That is about as specific as the book
gets about it's location. Yesterday I saw a spot where it might
be, so I want this chance to check it out because for all I know,
I may not ever return to this particular area.
I enjoy the sunrise in solitude and photograph the shrines, temples,
and buttes that we saw in quite a different light the evening before.
Once the sun is fully up, I head in the direction of camp, with
the detour to where I think the cave might be. To get there requires
a very short scramble down off the rock abutment where the trail
is onto a sloping ledge. Three or four steps to my west is the shortcut
to Cottonwood Creek. Taking those steps can get me to the bottom
of the canyon in a matter of seconds rather than the hour or so
it took three days before. The slope is not all that narrow, but
the rock and dirt on it are loose and crumbly, and just the thought
of starting a slide I can't stop makes me a little queasy. Because
the edge is the edge and it's not a gradual dropoff--it's straight
down. The cave isn't there anyway so I climb back up onto the trail
and hoof it back to the campsite. When I get there I discover that
somewhere on the way out this morning I have lost my hat, the green(?)
one with the white(?) logo that says "Michigan State University
Spartans" on it. That hat had made a number of trips to Arches
and Canyonlands with me, had been below the rim of the Grand Canyon
three separate times, kept the Japanese sun from burning my bald
spot on numerous occasions and the Lake Minnetonka sun from doing
the same. The reason for the question marks behind the color description
is because the true color of the hat after years of wear was filthy
and filthier, and I am bummed that it is gone. But then I realize
that the way I have thought of that hat for the past couple years
is as my Grand Canyon hat, and that if I had to lose it, I couldn't
have found a more appropriate final resting place.
|Starting up the Grandview Trail from Horseshoe Mesa
Gary has broken down everything at the campsite, and has his pack
all ready to go. We decided before the trip that we would forgo
a cooked breakfast on this morning and save the rest of our water
for drinking on the way out. So our rations for the hike out are
Clif bars and the remainder of our Gookinaid. Rather than watch
me load up my pack, Gary tells he will meet me by Berry's cabin
and takes off. When I join him there at about 8 a.m. he is just
finishing a conversation with some European kids who have come down
to the mesa in a group. By the sound of their speech, I take them
to be Germans or Swiss. They have told Gary that they left Grandview
Point at 5:30 this morning. It is now 8 o'clock. They have to meet
their bus back on the rim at 11:30. What is down here that they
can see in fifteen minutes?, they have asked. One of them wants
to head down the trail into Cottonwood Creek. He has heard there
is a river down here somewhere and he wants to see it. Gary has
dissuaded him. Down to Cottonwood Creek and back will probably take
more than fifteen minutes, he says. Someone over here must have
sold these kids a "Grand Canyon Highlights in 10 Minutes"
tour. But they will have the last laugh. They have come all the
way from Europe, so they will take FIFTEEN minutes and see it ALL!!
At 8:05, Gary and I leave Horseshoe Mesa for the rim. It is a
tough hike, although I don't think any walk out of the Canyon would
ever be considered easy, no matter what trail it is. But this trail
seems harder and steeper to me than the Bright Angel. Entire sections
of the Grandview are reinforced, almost paved in a way, with stone
slotted into the trail sideways. It reminds much of a cobblestone
street. Although it seems contrary to what should be, these sections
seem harder on me than than the ordinary rock and packed dirt sections.
There are stretches of this slotted stone trail that seem tortuously
interminable. At one point it seems like there are a dozen steep,
cobbled switchbacks in a row. I plod up the trail to the switchback
and turn to see an identical stretch in front of me. I stop and
suck wind for a minute or two. I plod up this stretch and turn to
see another. Another stop. More wind-sucking. This goes on for one.......
switchback.......... after........... another.............. and
another.................. and another. Who was it in mythology who
was damned to roll a heavy stone up a hill forever? I start to think
it was me.
About an hour or a little more into our climb we encounter our
first dayhikers. It is a man and woman, probably in their late fifties
and they are stolling as nonchalantly down the trail as if they
were going to the mall or golf course. That's the way they are dressed,
too. Shorts, loafers, and collared shirts. They don't have any water,
but it's not real hot today so I figure they'll be OK.
and more dayhikers are descending as we get closer to the rim and
finally I can see Grandview Point and am like a horse smelling the
barn. Gary has been ahead of me the whole way, but has stopped a
few hundred yards from the rim so that we can top out together.
He is talking to a young German couple and has found out that the
woman is from a small town very near to where Gary was based as
an exchange officer with the Royal Air Force in Germany. When I
catch up and get my breath, we continue and reach the rim together.
It is the third time I have done this, twice with friends and once
solo, and always the feeling is the same. I can only describe it
as extreme euphoria. Gary and I exchange high fives and with the
last of our water toast each other and the Grand Canyon. The German
girl, at our request, takes our cameras and photographs us in the
same spot where we had our departure photo taken three days before.
Although I felt during the hike that I was plodding along at a snail's
pace, it is only 10:35 and we have gone from Horseshoe Mesa to Grandview
Point in 2 1/2 hours. I am quite surprised.
A woman with big square sunglasses and a sun visor comes over
and says "How far down did you go?" At this moment, I
just don't feel like going into a lot of detail about what all we
did, so I just say, "All the way." She exclaims, "Oh....you
poor, brave people!"
This gets a smile from me, because I don't think I'm all that
brave and I know I'm not poor. And that's why I am smiling, because
I am feeling grateful that I have the ability to pull off a trip
like this and grateful that I have friends to share it with. So
as Gary and I trudge to the car I decide that I'm neither brave
nor poor, but I sure am happy. And damned lucky.
I am looking forward to my next Grand Canyon backpack already. I
don't know when it will be, but the sooner, the better. Maybe I
can finagle something next spring.
One of the things I took away from this trip is that I would definitely
like to reduce the total load I am carrying for the next trip. I
think I can do this two ways--by reducing my pack weight, and I
have different ideas on how to do that, and also my bodyweight.
"Hike skinny" as Gary put it. Because I don't think your
heart, lungs and legs differentiate between the fat around your
waist and the gear strapped to your back. Weight is weight. A neighbor
of mine has a unique way of putting this. He says for every 1 pound
you are over your ideal weight imagine going to the supermarket
and picking a 1 pound package of hamburger out of the cooler and
stuffing it down the front of your pants. Not that I am overweight,
I'm not. But this past June I was in great shape at 191 and under
7% bodyfat. Now I am over 200 and probably have a bodyfat % in the
low teens because of a looser diet. I think that makes a HUGE difference
to haul an extra 15-20 pounds with each step over that type of terrain.
As for my pack, I had no idea of how much it weighed before the
trip. I wasn't sure I wanted to. But on the trip home I put the
duffel bag containing my pack and boots on the scale at the check-in
counter and it read 36.5 pounds, which was less than I expected,
but of course that was without food, water, and stove (which I mailed
home). So the pre-trip project for next time is to trim that pack
weight somewhat, and to go in great shape.
One weird aftermath to this trip was that I had exposed six rolls
of film during the four days. When I got home it was missing. After
searching through my stuff for it and calling the hotel in Phoenix
and rental car agency at least three times apiece, I gave it up
for lost. Six days later, I found it in the basement in one of my
boots inside the duffel bag. I have no memory of putting it in there.
If I can get some of the pictures scanned later, and think any are
worthy, I will post a couple in this forum's library.
I apologize if some consider this report somewhat wordy, but on
the other hand, if you have read this far I assume it's because
you have been interested, or else extremely bored with nothing better
to do! Whatever the case, thanks for reading it.